i receive it.

I have one of my favorite Christmas songs on repeat right now and a pine scented candle burning…Christmas lights surrounding me and the beautiful realization that I am done with school until 2018.  Don’t get me wrong, I have LOVED school this year- it’s turned my whole world upside down right side up in the most amazing ways but I really enjoyed running errands and drinking coffee with no time limits today.  I think I’m going to relish the rest of this year, savoring each moment in simplicity.

To say I love Christmas would be such an understatement.  Every surface of our tiny home is covered in bottlebrush trees and red plaid…I cannot get enough.  Yesterday we sang Christmas carols on our last day of class and I cried through almost the entire hour.  It was so special.  I find myself staring at our Christmas tree so much, just so in love with this season.  It’s not just the smells (which i love!) or the traditions (also my fav!!) but the anticipation of the celebration.  It’s the best.  Lately, I’ve felt like God is giving me a front row seat as He once again brings to remembrance the most amazing birth this world has ever seen.  He’s the most amazing Father.  I love that He’s mine.

Someday I’ll share about school and how God is literally revealing more than I could have dreamed…but the one thing that has been so impressed upon my heart is His overwhelming, never-ending, uniquely special, vast love.  The beauty of Him is that all I have to do is RECEIVE it.  I’ve muttered and shouted “I receive it” at least a thousand times in the last few months; believing in faith that something was happening.  And while this will be my life-long journey, it’s working and I feel free-er every day.

Christmas represents ultimate joy to me…and not because every other decoration I own spells joy (that’s because it’s my name)…but because I’m becoming more and more aware of the Father’s radical love- He sent his Son- because He loves me.  Because He. loves. me.  I receive it.

Merry Christmas.

enhance

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adding to the collection

Just finished my annual Christmas song hunt on iTunes…always feel the need to add a couple new melodies to our collection of songs for my favorite time of year.  At the moment, my favorite new find: Jon McLaughlin’s “Hallelujah This Christmas” is putting a smile on my face.

Today is the beginning of our Thanksgiving break.  No school for a whole week.  I started the day with a lot of good intentions…put the kiddos to work organizing and cleaning out toy bins and drawers, mostly to get space ready for where our Christmas tree will reside. But, 3/4 of the way through, I found myself drawn to something better… iTunes Holiday music.  So, here I am, mesmerized by the Christmas music that is almost drowning out the loud screams of my crazy children, (who have inevitably giving up the collection of lego pieces and broken crayons) thinking I could multi-task a blog post while I lull myself into peace.

In front of me sits my Thanksgiving meal lists- the menu, the recipes (trying a new one this yr),  and the giant grocery list yet I don’t even feel overwhelmed.  I’m feeling so grateful for this time of year.  Perhaps it feels even more special because at this moment last year our house was carefully packaged into a hundred brown boxes and plastic bins, and though I was excited for what was coming…it felt very sad to skip Christmasifying our home.  I do not recommend moving during the holidays.  Bringing Christmas to life in our house is my favorite- nothing brings comfort and cozy together better than strings of white lights and real trees inside.

I’ve wanted to put out our Christmas decorations since September but I’ve held off.  Not because I believe in any rules of the season, but because I love weaving real Christmas tree branches everywhere in the house and one cannot find those until Christmas trees start appearing.  So, alas, I have waited patiently.  I am still burning my fall Apple Pie candle happily, and staring at my giant GIVE THANKS reminder above the cupboards.  Fall is shorter here in California, but it’s still been beautiful.

I’ve been so thankful for this new fall season- one where I get to be in school again.  The last time I started school in September was seven years ago, my last year of teaching, before baby Josiah showed up.  I have been loving school- I’m learning so much and growing even more.  Feeling the Father’s love over me in an even bigger way makes this Thanksgiving and Christmas season seem even more special.

Ok, back to work.

 

happy birthday maya

Oh dear.  My baby is FOUR?!  What the heck.  I still find myself defending her to her brothers as “the baby”…sheesh.  Maybe it’s because she’s just so darn cute, we can’t help it.  Maya Joy turns four today.  It’s been four wonderful years of getting to know this little bundle of love.

Possibly my most favorite part about my daughter is her quirks.  She’s weird in the most delightful ways.  The faces she makes could fill a thousand page book…her expressions are endless.  Her dance moves and literally just the way she chooses to walk sometimes makes me giggle.  She truly beats to her own beautiful drum.  I’m so glad.  I hope she will always follow her random instincts.  It’s what makes her unique and special.

Maya is the sweetest human, when she wants to be.  She loves kisses and cuddles and being held…but she always loves her freedom.  She is quick to comfort anyone who is sad, but quickly gets distracted and moves on.  She has the best blank stare I’ve ever seen in my life.  You should see her pre-k school photo.  She conquered potty training like a champ this year- by far the easiest and quickest…I’ll give her the potty award.  First place.  She can teach the next kiddo.  Ha!  Her only issue with the whole situation is that she likes undies with pictures on them…and a lot come with cool designs on the back- which is unacceptable for her.  So, she wears her underwear backwards half the time, despite the fact that I’ve explained how uncomfortable that is.  Oh well.

Speaking of clothing, she has let go of her death grip on dresses, hallelujah.  She still loves them of course, but doesn’t need to live her life in them…even the dress-up princess ones have been tossed aside lately.  She does still choose pink over anything else- and I’ve taken to buying clothing with animals or rainbows on them if they aren’t pink.  She’s more likely to happily get dressed with those choices.

Horses are her latest obsession- along with unicorns and zebras…well, any kind of horse-like creature.  She loves water…sitting in it, drinking it, splashing, swimming.  If we still owned a pool that girl would have been my little fish this summer.  And this fall, she started preschool.  I think it was a bit of a shock to her freedom- loving system, but she is now settling in nicely and loves it.  I’ve never started a kiddo this early, but with me going back to school, I was trusting that God knew what she needed too.  It turns out He does- what a shocker.

What else…she still sleeps in random places and the cutest thing in the world is when we unlock her door in the morning (yes, we flipped the lock, so she’s locked in) and if she’s awake, it’s an instant hide and seek game- which she finds hysterical.  Yet when we have to wake her up, she acts like a teenager…ignoring me and pulling the covers back over her head, just like her older brother Josi.  She still loves her daddy the most, though we’ve gotten closer this year for sure.  She adores her older brothers too, and interacts with each of them very differently.  It’s so cute to see their relationships grow.

I could keep writing endlessly about this little darling I get to call daughter…but instead I’ll say HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRINCESS!!  You are my favorite girl in the whole world.

Love, mommy whose name is Krista (she likes to point that out, often)

 

happy 11 years

enhanceSometimes, in my random daydreams I think about what it would be like to help people in their marriages.  And sometimes I stop myself because I don’t have the tumultuous, trial-ridden marriage that would have taught me through pain and suffering, how to love another person.  But then I remember, I have Bart.

He is what makes our marriage work.  Ultimately, God in him, yes- but he chooses to say yes and do the work.  He is always the first to apologize.  He is always the first to go low, to serve, to care, to give up a fight.  He won’t be walked upon or guilted- he is strong and stands up for himself and injustice, but he does it in such a humble way.  When I think about the girl I was, at 26, when we got married, I am SO GRATEFUL for how God has used my husband to change who I am today, at 37.  Gosh.

I have learned sensitivity…going from a girl without much of a sensitive bone in my body- to one who cares deeply about the way words are spoken, who cries at the drop of a hat, who thinks about how others would feel in any given situation.  I wasn’t any of those before I met Bart.

I have learned servanthood…admittedly I have a LONG way to go on this one…but I get to watch a man daily lay down his rights.  He gives and gives, with no expectations.  I tend to give and give, but often find myself waiting for reciprocation.  Serving is not about self, it’s about others.  My husband knows this to his core.

I have learned dependance on Jesus.  One of the first things I noticed about Bart is how often he’d ask the question “so- what does God say?” to anyone who was discussing a problem or choice or life decision.  He showed me that no matter what, ultimately God’s answer is the best.  God wants His BEST for us, not just good enough.  He created us with such unique desires and giftings, and He wants those realized!  But even more than all that, He wants a deep intimate relationship with us…where we can enjoy each other and just receive His love.  I feel like Bart has led us into a place where we can receive Him in such beautiful, life-changing ways.

I have learned how to let go of what I want.  This is probably the hardest lesson that I keep having to learn, over and over and over.  But my dearest husband has the patience of a …person with tons of patience…and lets me stumble and fail in this area…while still believing the best.  My favorite thing is that he doesn’t let my damaging behaviors continue too long, he lovingly calls me out, in the best and kindest ways, and then I have the chance to try again.  But he’s never nagged, never degraded me, never made me feel like a failure.  I like things a certain way, I love to control situations, I enjoy choosing what I do, when I want… but I don’t want to be this person forever.  And slowly, I’m watching God change that selfish, fear-based side of me, little by little.  I’m just so thankful that Bart has so much patience.

You may be thinking, “gosh krista- you know, half the marriage is you… you’re not giving yourself any credit” but trust me…I take LOTS of credit.  I love who I am and believe wholeheartedly that God has given us each other- we are so good for one another.  But the truth is, if Bart wasn’t continually giving me such unconditional love in our marriage- it would look vastly different.  And I’m not sure it’d be pretty.  The Bible talks about a wife needing to submit to their husband, but this is built on the admonition that a husband needs to love his wife like Christ loves the church.  Bart has never once even used the word submit in any context…because he’s been far too busy loving me like Christ loves us.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this.  And how well this whole set-up works.  I love my husband.  I love my marriage.  In a world where marriage is becoming such a temporary union, I want to celebrate ours.  I enjoy being married.  It’s amazing.

So, on this day…October 28, 2017…our 11th anniversary and my husband’s 39th birthday…I want to say thank you Bart.  I am truly so much better because of your love.  Thank you for loving Jesus with such abandon and for loving me into a better version of me, every single day, just by being yourself.  I cannot believe that I get to be married to such a stud.  You’re my favorite.  Forever.

*If you feel like reading our whole love story…I wrote it down awhile ago.  Start at last year’s 10 YEAR post and follow the trail.

life at the moment

Here I am. Bart and Josiah are at soccer practice.  Regan, my sick little boy, fell asleep at 4:30pm and it’s now past 6 and he’s still in dreamland.  I’m trying not to dread what tonight might hold if he can’t fall asleep and kinda hoping he’ll just continue until the morning.  So, Maya and I are chillin.

Today felt weird.  I’ve been charging full speed ahead with school and all that our lives are filled with…plus my dad visited, which was wonderful.  And then screeeeech.  The doctor said Regan has bronchitis yesterday and suddenly I find myself at home, for 2 days.  What used to feel normal now feel’s kinda weird, but kinda nice.

I quieted the house today- put away all my spring/summer decor that has been up since January when we moved in.  The weather is SO divine right now- gosh- living through a summer of 110 degrees makes 80 feel like an arctic tundra in the most beautiful way.  It’s funny to realize how many rules I created for myself during the summer…from what I wore (all black, doesn’t show sweat) to not buying chocolate unless I was immediately headed home (it would melt so fast).  I couldn’t even leave flats of water bottles in the trunk for later…the plastic would melt and get distorted.  My car window came unsealed because of the heat…no amount of rolling down windows would cool off the car, I felt thirsty all. the. time.  Its bizarre.

So, that’s behind us- and life is really nice.  I am so thankful for school- for my 3 kiddos and myself.  It’s a whole different frame of mind, but it makes me so much more productive.  I’m realizing how much I can accomplish with limited amounts of time.  It’s invigorating.  I love being back in a classroom setting, learning every day.  I’m even embracing the homework.  I know, weird right?

This is such a boring post.  I just wanted to tell you that I’m alive.  Hopefully I’ll be back soon with something insightful.

 

you have your grandma’s laugh

gramWe said goodbye to my grandma this week- one of my very favorite people of all time.  Esther Clara Swenson left this world on Monday and I haven’t stopped remembering since.  She was truly a gift to our family and such a joy to be near.

One of the many things I admired about my grandma was her desire for community.  She was a sincere friend to anyone and everyone.  Even when I was much younger I remember always hearing her talk about her friends and siblings, as if their lives were so intertwined, one and the same.  We started writing each other letters when I moved away, and I loved getting her cute cursive notes, filled with information about whoever was sick, her recent lunch dates or current walking partners.  Even in her last few years, when we’d fly home for visits and head up to Park View to see her, I always got to meet a tableful of smiley women, usually different ones each time, and it made me so happy.  In a world full of people longing to be seen, she saw.  She never stopped reaching out, turning strangers into friends…a true treasure.

I loved her humor.  The last two times I saw her, even in her distressed state, she still joked with my sons and then with my sister and I.  Laughter was so important to her, just as it is to me.  She was so good at it, smiling was her favorite.  On one of our last visits, grandma was sharing a room with a sweet bed-ridden woman who desperately wanted company and kept asking me questions, trying to make conversation.  All I wanted to do was soak in the precious moments with my grandma, but as we neared the end of our time that day, after I had laughed loudly, that dear woman exclaimed “You have your grandma’s laugh”!  It stopped me in my tracks, tears welling up immediately.  I don’t remember ever being told that…but it makes me smile each time I think about it now, especially because my laugh is such a part of who I am.  I wanted to hug that lady as I walked out the door, tucking that little nugget into the special place where all my granddaughter memories reside.

It’s actually difficult to separate the memories of my grandma from the whole of my life, because she was present for so much of it.  I am so thankful she was such a fixture all of these years.  I remember sleepovers at my grandparents house, the best mac-n-cheese, homemade popcorn and Saturday morning cartoons (we didn’t own a tv, so this was such a treat).  I remember her stories about the farm, and Pa, Wanda, Leona, Oscar, Arnie…I giggle at her family’s names because they were just so darn cute.  Her childhood seemed like another world, yet she melded into mine so seamlessly.  I remember her old telephone with the round dial that I used to play with endlessly…the seagulls in the bathroom, the storage room upstairs with extra snacks, and searching for treats in her freezer.  I remember the night I stayed at their house awaiting my little sister’s birth…and the countless other major life happenings she was a part of.

I remember her cute little house and all the times I dreamed of what I would do to renovate…even though as I look back now, it was perfectly cozy and exactly my grandparents.  I remember her faithfulness as my grandpa deteriorated- so loving and strong and steadfast- never wavering in her care for him.  Eleven years ago, I remember laughing with joy as she danced the night away at my wedding.  I remember when she met my first born son- he was a giant baby and the picture of my little white grandma holding my roly-poly black son still makes me chuckle, even through these tears.  It was so special to be able to introduce my children to my own grandmother.  She was always so happy to see me, and my family, every time.  She always tried to kiss me on my lips and though I often resisted, the last time I saw her I kissed her square on the lips with pride and held onto that hug for a long time.  My sister had suggested I pray for her…and I couldn’t finish without tears welling up.  All I could think about was that it might be the last time I held her hand…and it was.

I recently recall a conversation surrounding the beauty of how well-loved my grandma was.  In this day and age, sadly, it’s unique and amazing that my grandma ended up with three sons who adored her (not to mention all the rest of us family members).  Throughout her life, but especially in these last few months her sons selflessly tried to out-serve one another and it was incredibly touching to watch.  I have thought long and hard about her secret…how did she do it- how did she end up surrounded by such dedication and affection?  And I know.  It was love.  It was connection.  She knew how to make people feel seen, heard, and valued.  She knew how to stay connected and love really really well.  She knew that was more important than anything else.

I am so thankful for all these years I was able to see a life well lived.  She was a gift.  One of faithfulness and honesty, one of acceptance and generosity, one of laughter and kindness, one of joy and unconditional love.  I am so so so glad I got to be her granddaughter.

Until we meet again Grandma…

 

ten years in between

It just hit me recently that ten years ago, at this time, Bart and I were moving to Kansas City, Missouri to begin a new adventure.  We had quit our jobs in New Jersey and applied for an internship at the International House of Prayer.  I’m pretty sure we never dreamed what would happen from that one decision (read: love, freedom, jobs, adoption, friends, moves- to name a few).

Ten years later, here I sit, in Redding, California- ready to embark on another spiritual school.  I can’t help but feel grateful for the gift it has been to learn about God from incredibly wise, Jesus-loving teachers.  Our internship at IHOP laid some of the most important groundwork in my spiritual growth- it was there I truly learned who Holy Spirit is- and that relationship grew so much.  I could liken it to a good buddy becoming my closest friend and confidant.  It’s been my favorite ever since.  Hearing His voice has changed me so profoundly…I’m not sure there are words to describe before and after.

I love growth.  I don’t ever want to stop changing.  I know there is always more room to learn…especially when it comes to the knowledge of God.  Each drop of wisdom about the Creator of this world brings such incredible opportunities to grow and change.  Almost every week in the past few months, I’ve been reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis that just sends a knife to my heart and re-lights the fire in me…over and over.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

 

AHHHHH.  SO GOOD.  SO TRUE.  There is MORE.  SO MUCH MORE.  INFINITE JOY?!?!  YES!  My prayer for this year is to be challenged and encouraged to find the more.  I’m not even sure what it all means…but I can rest in the fact that God knows.  I’m just excited, really excited.  Bring. It. On.